- Onchocerciasis is caused by filarial worm Onchocerca volvulus.
- Epidemiology: the world’s second-leading cause of blindness.
- Approximately 18 million people live with onchocerciasis, and over one million have severe visual impairment or blindness.
- 99% of onchocerciasis cases occur in Africa.
- The disease is endemic in 31 sub-Saharan African countries, including Venezuela, Brazil, and Yemen.
- WHO certified the elimination of human onchocerciasis in Columbia (2013), Ecuador (2014), Mexico (2015), and Guatemala (2016).
- Prevalence is higher among young boys as compared to girls.
- O. volvulus is transmitted to humans by blackflies (Simulium damnosum), which breed in fast-flowing rivers and streams.
- Life cycle:
- Infected blackfly transmits third-stage filarial larvae onto the human host’s skin during a blood meal.
- Larvae penetrate the subcutaneous tissues and develop into adult microfilariae over 6-12 months.
- Adults persist in subcutaneous nodules for about 15 years, with females producing 1,000-3,000 microfilariae daily for up to 9 years.
- Blackfly ingests microfilariae during a blood meal.
- Microfilariae penetrate the blackfly midgut and migrate to thoracic muscles, developing into first-stage larvae and third-stage larvae.
- Third-stage larvae migrate to the blackfly proboscis and can infect another human host during a blood meal.
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